That the watch industry has been in quite bad weather the last couple of months is nothing new. Premium brands, respected movement developers and production companies have been struck by – what seems – a difficulty that’s far from over. As a result, brands tend to go back to their roots. As seen this year, the big boys are using their old creations for ‘new’ ideas. Resulting in a few vintage re-issues here and there.
Zenith also did this, with their vintage inspired pilot, but that’s not their biggest novelty. Zenith has always been a brand that watch enthusiasts sometimes have to be remembered of. A strange thing, since this brand has such a rich history – especially when it comes to the El Primero.
It’s safe to say that the El Primero is the biggest creation under the wing of Zenith and will be their biggest creation in the near future. You can almost say, Zenith = El Primero. So what other to do than take that aspect you’re really good in and develop it even more? Well, that’s what Zenith did with their Defy El Primero 21. Entering the 21th century, the brand is on the brink of redefining their El Primero and with that, accurate time measuring.
Defy El Primero 21
As you may know, the original El Primero was a huge thing back in the days (and has always been a huge thing, up until know), when it came to accurate time measurement. With 36.000 Vph, the chronograph was enormously accurate right from the get-go. This new Defy model also beats with a standard of 5Hz, which means the balance is already moving at 36.000 Vph. However, the chronograph is now capable of reaching 360.000 Vph, resulting in accurate time measurement of 1 hundred of a second.
By using two separate gear trains and escapements, the watch is possible of splitting the movement’s functions. This means that the chronograph reaches very high frequencies, whereas the normal time display keeps working at 5Hz – still a very high frequency. As you may expect, this new El Primero is COSC-certified and comes with a 50-hour power reserve. Besides that, it has also a 50-minute autonomy for the chronograph.
The balance spring of this new El Primero is created with a new kind of material. The LVMH-group patented the use of a Carbon-Matrix Carbon Nanotube composite, to ensure the balance spring works extremely well under all kinds of conditions. Which comes in very handy since this chronograph has a name to live up to. Did you know Zenith owns 2.333 prizes chronometry prizes? I didn’t either, but they’ve told us that. I tell you, just to show how much the El Primero chronograph means to Zenith and what level of time-measuring history we’re talking about.
Of course, the Zenith El Primero is very famous for the overlapping sub-dials with their distinctive colors, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be butt-naked every once in a while. This new Defy El Primero 21 comes with a skeletonized dial, as well as a partially skeletonized movement. The black model as you see in the pictures is probably the best version you can get of this model. We really like it, especially since it’s such a cool-looking high-level time instrument.
At 12 o’clock, you’ll find a power reserve indicator. At 3 o’clock there’s the thirty minute counter, executed in the same blue colour as the El Primero from 1969. Seconds and tenths of a second are displayed at 6 o’clock and the star pointer at 9 o’clock displays seconds for normal time-keeping. With 25 turn, clockwise if you will, you’ll fully charge the chronograph. Turning the crown counter-clockwise will charge the watch.
The watch case is made out of black ceramicised aluminum and has a diameter of 44mm. A perfectly shaped watch and due to the case shape not very big on your wrist. It has a height of 14.5mm and comes with a sapphire-crystal case back – which shows the rotor with engraved star logo as we know from Zenith.
To be honest, this is the only right thing to do. Zenith takes their iconic model to the next level and that’s what’s making them different from the rest. Focus on your advantage and build on it, that’s the only way to stick out and still be relevant over 10 years. Which means that the long search of which direction the brand had to go, may finally be coming to an end. The El Primero is an icon, don’t try and doubt about that, you’ll be wrong.
No matter if you like it or not, it’s one of those watches that deserve their own spot within history. It may not be as famous as it should be, but that’s a good thing. As long as the El Primero comes across as that wise old man living in the forest, it’s good. We all respect it and give it the value it deserves. Now, let’s hope this particular watch won’t be victim of some kind of stupid marketing stunt. Zenith doesn’t deserve it and the El Primero doesn’t deserve it. Good day.
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